Here we go. Another quickish update.
Chapter 61: Hermanos
Tsunade's Shikai was fully a support technique, one designed to keep her teammates alive on the battlefield. Her Bankai, on the other hand, was when Tsunade finally learned how to attack with her Zanpakutou, and no longer was she reliant on Hadou spells to cause any damage.
"Tsunade-sama!" Ino cried out, as the vines from before retracted from her body.
"Stand back, you two. I'll handle this one alone," she said dangerously, as her Bankai began to take shape. The vines retreated back into her sword, before the blade itself disappeared.
A green plant like a Venus flytrap sprouted underneath her feet, rising ten feet in the air and acting as a sort of platform that Tsunade stood on. No less than seven long vines covered in thorns sprouted from the edge of the bulb. They lashed around like whips, dripping with a foul-looking black ichor from their thorns.
"It's just you and me now, eh? At least you've finally taken out something impressive other than your pussy shit! Are we gonna start this thing or what?" Nnoitra asked.
"But, now that I look at you a little closer, you got a nice rack! Too bad I'm a Hollow, but seeing a rack like that makes me feel a little bit... excited. Even if you are a useless woman..." Nnoitra hissed.
Tsunade glared at him, and clenched her fist, her old temper flaring up. Yet, she couldn't punch this sack of shit considering she didn't have insane strength anymore. Her Bankai was going to be doing all the fighting.
This one wasn't like Jiraiya, who was just your average, every day, super-pervert. This one made off-color sexist and perverted comments for the purpose of being malicious, and it bugged her.
Tsunade shot out her hand, summoning one of the vines to her aid. It cracked in the air, shooting out towards Nnoitra. Now that he had actually had a decent Sonido, it was easy for him to avoid it.
"This is mine!" Nnoitra shouted, slicing off the tendril at its base as he got close. The same filthy black ichor splattered from inside the vine as he sliced it, covering Nnoitra in some small flecks of the substance.
"Ugh, this isn't so sexy, after all..." he growled in disgust. He didn't even bother wiping off the ichor, but he was slightly surprised when the vine grew back, giving Tsunade's Bankai an even seven once again.
"Tsunade-sama, be careful where you're swinging your Bankai around. Some of that black stuff almost landed over here!" Ino cried from over a distance away. Tsunade ignored her.
Nnoitra clanged his blades together once again, but Tsunade's Bankai was now beginning to move. It picked itself up off the ground and walked over to him as if the vines were legs, but luckily for him it wasn't very fast.
"Da fuck? That thing's mobile too?" he growled, jumping out of the way of a vine that impacted the ground and slicing the thing off. Once again, filthy black ichor spewed forth, but this time none of it landed on Nnoitra.
Tsunade wasn't going to give him much of a chance to recover, as all of a sudden the seven vines began twirling around the base of a plant in a swirling vortex, even as the animated plant began to move.
"So, that thing can spin too? Too bad you're still a weak-ass bitch who won't even fight me herself!" Nnoitra sneered, pointing his two blades together as he glowed with golden reiatsu.
A short chain was visible, connecting the two blades to the small holes in Nnoitra's wrists. With a grunt, he hefted the connected blades outward, throwing it at Tsunade's Bankai.
They spiraled through the air, glowing with reiatsu, and Tsunade got the impression that the reiatsu added nearly two feet of reach onto those things. Like a puppetmaster, Nnoitra crossed the two flying blades together, before he jerked the right blade around the Bankai, lopping off several of the spinning vines, while he controlled the left one to attack the middle. The blade cut through the plant matter as if it were a knife through butter, cutting Tsunade's Bankai almost cleanly in half.
The top platform that Tsunade was resting upon shot into the air, but it was still connected by a few plant fibers to the bottom. A wave of black ichor was spilling out, leaving a puddle near the base of the Bankai.
"Agh! Split apart, Rin'ne!" Tsunade shouted, as the base of the plant completely detached itself from the upper portion, allowing Tsunade to levitate in the air with her reiatsu alone
The seven vines continued to stay at the base of the Bankai, but several more were sprouting from the levitating end that Tsunade was currently perched on.
Nnoitra's twin scythes pulled back toward him promptly after they were finished cutting the plant into ribbons. And yet, he was getting very annoyed because it seemed like Tsunade had actually entered another, stronger state of her Bankai after he had cut it.
He blocked a quick strike from Tsunade's Bankai, before he disappeared with a quick Sonido.
"Tsunade-sama, watch out!" Kiba called from over where he and Ino were standing. Tsunade's eyes snapped open as the Sexta Espada appeared in mid-air, with two scythes ready to close in and cut her in half.
Tsunade raised her hand calmly when she saw Nnoitra coming at her, erecting a barrier of vines dripping with the same sticky black ichor to protect herself from Nnoitra's attacks. The Sexta could still see her though; the barrier was made of a strangely translucent plant material, and the Arrancar saw how small vines connected to Tsunade's face and body, as if they were strange parasites.
With reckless abandon, Nnoitra struck the barrier with the blades anyway, growling as the right one got stuck in the plant matter. The black ichor leaked out and acted like a sort of superglue, and Nnoitra found he couldn't pull himself out.
"I wouldn't struggle. That substance could bind the strongest Menos Grande!" Ino shouted in triumph over to the side. Nnoitra glared at her, taking his free and throwing his blade at her.
"Shut your hole, you stupid cunt!" he roared, getting an intense satisfaction when both she and Kiba and screamed and moved just barely out of harm's way.
He turned his attention back to Tsunade, who was muttering something under her breath, when he noticed that the plant was threatening to pull him in and consume him. The plant was already finished covering Tsunade, but she obviously wouldn't be harmed by her own Bankai.
She was still mumbling to herself underneath the cover of plants, but when her eyes snapped open, Nnoitra could actually hear her speak clearly at him.
Multiple vein-like vines spread out from where Tsunade was standing, digging underneath the plant barrier and beginning to grow over to where Nnoitra was.
Like Nnoitra's scythes, they were glowing with reiatsu and the black ichor that seemed to be so common with Tsunade's Bankai. Yet, with the vines wrapped around him, it didn't matter how strong his Hierro was. The black ichor was sticky, and he would be bound in place as if the strongest Bakudo in the world was being used on him.
"Fuck!" Nnoitra shouted, using his free arm to grasp his shoulder. With a wince of pain and some aggravation, the Sexta detached his right arm at the shoulder, allowing the creeping vines to take control of it.
Now freed from the Bankai, Nnoitra put distance between himself and Tsunade, hovering in mid-air while Tsunade glared up at him. He concentrated, allowing his reiatsu to work toward regenerating his lost limb. It snapped back into place after just a few seconds.
After his arm recovered, he released his blades from their connections at his wrists, opting to hold them in his hands, giving him an extended reach without him throwing them.
He opened his mouth, showing his tongue with the "6" tattoo plastered all over it. He charged up a golden Cero, stronger than his usual one, in an attempt to break clean through the barrier.
"Need more..." Tsunade grimaced, trying to bring up her plant barrier to maximum strength to avoid the Cero. The yellow energy was upon her far too quickly however, and she ripped through the Bankai and abandoned it as the golden Cero eliminated all of her defenses and left the tip of her Bankai a smoldering husk.
Nnoitra was already upon her as soon as her defenses were gone and she was in mid-air as an easy target, swinging his scythes down upon her. As a last-ditch effort, she summoned a vine and fashioned it as a type of blade, but it was cut through easily. However, it gave her enough to time to avoid the strike and land on the ground, allowing her to rethink a new strategy.
She touched down upon the ground, the remnants of her Bankai healing themselves slowly. She would be unable to use it for the time being, so she would have to hold off Nnoitra with little more than the scraps of it while it healed. She gathered another vine and held it like a sword, while Nnoitra crossed his blades once again.
He crossed the blades again, connecting them once again to his wrists as he threw them like a boomerang. Now that Tsunade was on the ground and not protected, she was a much easier target.
Tsunade stared at the incoming blades, and then at her plant sword, realizing that such a flimsy weapon would never be able to get through those scythes of Nnoitra's.
Thinking quickly, she filed through her knowledge of Kidou to find a barrier spell strong enough to block it, but it was too late. Fortunately for her, Ino and Kiba had found the moment a perfect time to act, and they had rushed in as soon as they saw Tsunade's Bankai fail.
Ino's sealed Zanpakutou met Nnoitra's left scythe, while Kiba's Shikai met his right one. Nnoitra seemed to simply view the two of them as little more than a distraction. They all knew that they were there just to give Tsunade some time.
"Out of my way!" Nnoitra snarled, pushing both Shinigami with his scythes, preparing to cut into them while they were disoriented.
"Now, Tsunade-sama!" Ino shouted. "Use your Kidou on him!"
Tsunade snapped out of her funk when Ino and Kiba acted on their own, but their strategy wasn't a very sound one.
"Are you crazy?! You're in the way! If I use my Kidou now, you'll be engulfed in it!"
"We'll handle it! Just use it!"
Tsunade growled. "Alright, but don't blame me if something goes wrong!"
With Kiba and Ino holding down Nnoitra, Tsunade was free to charge up her Kidou.
"Hadou #88: Hiryu Gekizoku Shinten Raihou!"
"What the? Fuck!"
With Nnoitra's eyes still trained on both Ino and Kiba, he was slow to react when Tsunade fired an intense blast of blue lightning directly in his path. At this rate, it would engulf all three of them.
"Damn it! Not stupid Kidou again. I'm not gonna fall for it this time!" Nnoitra growled,. "Puñalada!" he roared, throwing his right Zanpakutou out. Ino and Kiba had planned to hold him till the last possible moment, then disappear with a quick Shunpo.
Ino disappeared in time to get away, but Nnoitra had thrown his chained scythe Kiba's way, pulling it tight so it would wrap around him and prevent him from using Shunpo.
Like a lasso holding a bull, Nnoitra pulled back, wrapping his lanky arms around Kiba and pressing the Shinigami's back to him as the strong Kidou approached.
"The strongest Hierro and a meat shield... I think I'm going to survive this..." Nnoitra snickered, his strength more than capable of keeping the struggling Kiba down. The blue lightning veered close to the two of them, with Kiba screaming and Nnoitra snickering his repulsive laugh.
"Tsunade-sama, wait!" Ino called out, when she realize that Kiba hadn't gotten out.
"Damn it! It's too late!" Tsunade yelled over the chaos. The Kidou had already been fired.
Nnoitra ducked as he felt the Kidou impact him. It was a moderate burning sensation, but Hierro was holding true, and the meat shield in front of him was absorbing much of the contact.
On the other hand, Kiba did not have anything capable of defending against a high-80s Kidou when being held down. The lightning seared his flesh like it was paper, and when the Kidou subsided after nearly five seconds, he was charred and burned.
Nnoitra dropped him like trash, watching as he struggled on the ground. Without even looking at the others, before Tsunade and Ino could even react, he retracted his wrist scythe and jabbed it directly into the top of his forehead, scalping him without a thought.
Nnoitra then kicked the dead Kiba forward, watching the others look of disgust as he landed directly in front of them. Nothing would be able to heal that.
"Fucking kid thought he was cool enough to distract me. Got what was comin' to him!" Nnoitra sneered, while Ino and Tsunade seethed with rage. Nnoitra was done playing around at this point, now focusing his attention on killing Tsunade. He rattled his blades.
"And you're next, bitch. Your Bankai is no match for me even if you reform it, and your distraction plan with the Kidou isn't enough to work either. You've lost!" he screamed, charging Tsunade like the animal he was.
For all she was worth, Tsunade summoned one of her vines to act as a sword. She would try to hold him off as long as she could, enough for her Bankai to reform.
But in close-quarters, she was doomed.
That is, until she felt a strong reiatsu coming from behind her. Multiple Hollows that were giving them a wide berth suddenly suffered from intense slash marks all over their bodies. Someone was carving a path to them.
"Looks like I finally found my way here..." a distinctly human-like voiced called out. "It was so hard to find you in this mess..."
A figure stepped out into the clearing, and Tsunade's eyes widened.
"Who in the fuck are you?" Nnoitra asked.
"Before I answer that, would you mind backing off of my student?"
A short old man was walking up to the lanky Nnoitra, and the mantis Arrancar growled at him. There was something he didn't like about the old man, though it was rare for Nnoitra to not dislike something. The fact that the old man had his Zanpakutou drawn already as a challenge didn't help either.
"Sarutobi-sensei!" Tsunade called out.
Grimmjow wiped the blood from his claws on the ground, and growled. A massive ball of acid was hurtling towards him, and he sped away from it without a second thought, even as it crashed into the ground and began dissolving it.
"Not like I'm gonna let you get away! Neji, check up on Shikamaru!" Jiraiya roared. More acid materialized from his conductor's baton, while Grimmjow was still speeding away with Sonido. However, some of the leftover acid from the previous attack had risen up from the ground, and had resumed surging toward Grimmjow.
The Séptima was even more agile and quick than he was before, and it wasn't like he was particularly slow before he activated his second release. Jiraiya's Shunpo couldn't even compared to the speed that this Arrancar was moving at, so if they wanted to win, he would have to be creative.
"Here he comes..." Jiraiya thought to himself, as Grimmjow flashed into existence right in front of him. The acid was still behind them, and as Jiraiya could see, it was in the Arrancar's blind spot.
He blocked a paw that was trying to hit him in the face, before Grimmjow spun around and tried to slash at him. Fortunately for him, Jiraiya seemed to be stronger in the physical sense, even though his speed couldn't match up.
"C'mon..." Jiraiya thought, bringing his conductor's baton backwards as a giant tidal wave of acid flowed back towards the fighting pair. With his baton still swinging, he covered himself in the acid, which was setup so it wouldn't harm him, creating a liquid shield of the substance.
Grimmjow had been reeling back his right arm for an attack, but the animalistic Arrancar gave pause when he witnessed both the shielded Jiraiya in front of him and the wave of acid behind him.
With an angry growl, Grimmjow pointed both of his paws at the shielded Jiraiya.
"So, I just can't touch you physically now. I can handle that..."
Slots opened up on his sharp claws, and in his second state Jiraiya realized that those elbow darts of his were in fact no longer carried at the elbow.
Grimmjow fired his darts, the release rate being much quicker than in his first state. Jiraiya leapt away to the side, the shield of acid following him wherever he went. The only thing the barrier would do is prevent Grimmjow from touching him. If any of those darts hit him, the shield would not be able to protect him from harm.
He was able to fire ten of them at once now, and the darts reloaded at a much faster rate. Jiraiya had to keep moving now; he saw the outright craters that those darts made.
The wave of acid crashed down where Grimmjow was standing, eating away at the ground as it approached him. Yet Grimmjow was in the air now, dropping darts down on Jiraiya like a bombardment from a plane.
"Jiraiya-sama, Shikamaru is dead. Our worst fears have been confirmed..." Neji said from over where Shikamaru's body lay. Neji had flipped him over and shut his eyes as a sign of respect, but both of their lives were in serious danger with Séptima Espada still alive.
"Shit! Naruto's really turned bad, hasn't he? Directly or indirectly causing the deaths of people he used to care about..." Jiraiya grunted. Neji's face darkened.
"What do we do, Jiraiya-sama?" Neji asked, looking to the more experienced man.
"We have to keep fighting. It doesn't matter that Shikamaru is dead now, as much as I hate to say it. Naruto is still out there and Soul Society is still in danger. We may have to lay down our lives as Shinigami..."
"I was hoping that wouldn't have to be the case. Then again, I was more asking how we defeat our opponent..."
"Kid, I wanna ask you the same question..." Jiraiya chuckled, throwing his conductor's baton into the air. Grimmjow was watching the entire display, on edge.
The ground rumbled for a moment, and Grimmjow fired an elbow dart at Jiraiya. The former Toad Sage avoided it easily, and kept his stance as he guided five identical geysers of acid from within the ground.
Like arrows heading toward their small target, they shot at Grimmjow, and the Arrancar was able to show off more of his expert agility to avoid them all.
The geysers had been dodged, allowing Grimmjow to come to no harm. And at this point, it was the Séptima's turn to go on the offensive.
Blue reiatsu formed in his claws, though he was not preparing for his Desgarrón.
Five tiny blips of blue reiatsu were cast off from each of his claws, falling down towards Jiraiya. Several of them veered off and landed in the pools of acid left behind, but three of the tiny dots found their way to Jiraiya.
When Grimmjow snapped his fingers, they exploded into pure white reiryoku. Jiraiya winced, though he wasn't fooled by their seemingly harmless appearance coming in. It was more like it was difficult to move while the acid was shielding him. His Shunpo was inactive with the shield up, so he was forced to take some moderate damage as the explosions burned him.
Grimmjow laughed when he saw Jiraiya injured, but he seemed to be happier about the fact that it displaced the acid shield that he had up.
"Shinigami!" Grimmjow chanted as he dove at Jiraiya, who now had an unprotected area right over his chest. Now that Jiraiya was limited in movement with a faulty shield, it was the perfect time to press the attack.
"Jiraiya-sama!" Neji cried, trying to hurry over to help Jiraiya when he realized that Grimmjow was headed straight for him. However, Grimmjow far outclassed Neji in terms of speed, and the Hyuuga was rendered as only being able to watch as Grimmjow stabbed his claws straight into the unprotected spot on Jiraiya's body.
"Ah..." Grimmjow sighed in pleasure as he felt his claws penetrate Jiraiya's body, before he felt his wrist get grabbed by a large hand, holding the Séptima in place.
The acid scalded his skin, the digestive fluid of a toad's stomach eating away at his Arrancar armor. It chipped away like bone fragments on the wind, but if it were an arm versus killing his opponent, Grimmjow wasn't sure what he would take.
"Shit, he's trying to engulf me in that acid!" Grimmjow thought, as he saw Jiraiya make some strange movements, like he was thrusting forward. The wounded Shinigami was bleeding heavily, but he didn't seem to be impaired to the point where he was down for the count.
Jiraiya was panting at this point, but he kept a firm grip on Grimmjow's right arm, even adding his second arm to grab him around the elbow.
"Stupid old geezer... I know just the technique to deal with you..." Grimmjow sneered at him, charging up more reiryoku into his sharp claws. It wasn't the Predador Blanco, however.
The five claws of light extended from Grimmjow's claws as he struck, slashing Jiraiya across the chest and giving him heavy wounds. That was enough for him to relinquish his hold on Grimmjow, and when he was released, the Arrancar immediately put distance between himself and the former Toad Sage, opting to attack with Desgarrón.
Neji attacked, Kinori at the ready, but he Zanpakutou clattered against Grimmjow's sharp claws, before he used his now free arm to form to slash a second Desgarrón into existence, giving him ten long claws of blue reiatsu.
Kinori was promptly severed by the stronger technique, the tips of all five blades being cut off a couple inches past the tips. The five-pronged trident was reduced to nothing more than a blunt spear.
Grimmjow then kicked Neji in the stomach, sending him flying back several meters.
"Ah, now I can get on with it!" Grimmjow said, now that Neji's weapon was incapacitated. His other Desgarrón had broken off, but he formed another one easily when he brought his claws together and shaped a full one, now at full strength.
Jiraiya was standing a ways away, his acid shield having fully recovered. He was now deep in concentration, trying his best to will his weaponized acid to do his bidding, even when he was so heavily injured. The time for chit-chat was over.
A moment later, and all of it rose from the ground and within his shield, the conductor's baton flashing to and fro as it rose into a tidal wave of acid, much bigger than the first wave he summoned.
"Damn it!" Grimmjow roared, throwing out all his Desgarrón toward Jiraiya with all the force he could muster. He met the wave of acid head on, leaping into the air along with his Desgarrón.
And then, it engulfed the Séptima, and Jiraiya collapsed to one knee.
"Hah... hah..." he breathed heavily, looking at Neji, who was now contemplating his broken Zanpakutou. "I think I got him that time..."
The Hyuuga was forced to look as five blue claws of light emerged from the center of the wave, too fast for the wounded Jiraiya to react to. They pierced his body easily, dragging him back many feet as he was impaled upon them.
They burned his flesh, and he tried to dislodge them, but the Captain of the Ninth Division got them off too late, his haori now stained with blood as the Desgarrón stopped moving, and he fell into the dirt.
"Jiraiya-sama!" Neji called out.
The tidal wave dispersed, and Neji saw what had happened. Grimmjow had emerged from within the center of it all. His body was slightly worn and eaten away by the acid, but he looked more alive than ever.
He flashed over to Jiraiya, the critically wounded Captain just able to look up at him. His conductor's baton had fallen off to the side, and his right arm shakily but futilely tried to reach for it.
Grimmjow grinned a psychotic grin, as his mask chipped away. Jiraiya lay defeated at the Séptima's hands, and Grimmjow smashed his foot into Jiraiya's chest, preventing him from moving and pinning him to the ground.
He charged up a blue Cero in one hand, and Jiraiya watched as Grimmjow pointed it at where his head was. It was point-blank, and Grimmjow would not miss.
Images of Naruto flashed into his mind at the last second, remembering the old student that he once had. He had only seen Naruto for just a few moments as he was now, but it seemed that no matter what he did, the image of the new Naruto wouldn't go away.
"Minato... I'm sorry..."
Grimmjow fired the Cero.
At this point, Ichigo was far more like a Hollow than he was a Shinigami. It was clear that he had made the jump to controlling his Hollow powers even further while he was in Hueco Mundo. Even coming close to the form he was in now a decade ago was a big no-no on his part, but now... he could do it without losing himself.
Everything from his neck to his kneecaps was covered in Hollow armor. He had used this Hollow form before, back in Las Noches, but he couldn't even control it then.
But, he wasn't concerned about his opponent at the moment. Rather, the thick stream of reiryoku rising from the very ceiling of the greater palace was a cause for concern, especially when it opened a hole in the sky.
Ulquiorra noticed it as well.
"Looks like he finally did it. The air is being charged with so much reiatsu..." he commented. Ichigo looked at him strangely; the Arrancar was still so calm.
"You guys... what the hell were you doing?" Ichigo asked, even as his mask was starting to warp. He was one stage away from the complete Hollow form, but that was something he would prefer not to use.
"Me... nothing. It is the job of both myself and the other Espada to pick off threats such as you so Naruto himself can reach the Soul King. What you are seeing is his doing... and the realization of his master plan. You need not concern yourself with it. Instead, focus your attention on me..." he explained, gripping his green lance like a life support.
Then, he threw it. Ichigo seemed to be unprepared for an assault like that, but he responded in kind with his signature Getsuga Tenshou, which met the Luz de la Luna mid-way and dematerialized it. Ulquiorra had already materialized another two, one for each hand, while Ichigo had wrapped his blade in the Getsuga Tenshou.
"It's stronger than before. The more he becomes a Hollow, the stronger that attack gets. It's not just that technique either. His speed and physical strength is increasing as well..."
"Yet the holes in his fighting style... are primarily the same."
The Segunda shot out with both lances, clashing one of them against Ichigo's Getsuga Tenshou empowered blade. While it shattered almost immediately against it, he used the time in-between to wrap his remaining one around Ichigo's head in preparation for the kill, while simultaneously forming another one in his other hand.
Ichigo reacted beautifully, pushing off of Ulquiorra while charging up a Cero in his mouth to knock away from the other lance before it could reach his head. The attack exploded on the bridge a while away in a shower of green and red, while Ulquiorra primed the third and final Luz de la Luna to impale Ichigo through the stomach.
It clipped Ichigo in the side of his Hollow armor, exposing the Shinigami robes underneath. Yet, with a final Getsuga, he repelled Ulquiorra as well, along with creating another crack in the bridge. The Hollow armor was already repairing itself, while Ulquiorra was yet again flying towards him.
Their weapons met once again, but Ulquiorra used his flight to leap over and deliver a potent stab to an unprotected area on Ichigo's back. The energy seared Ichigo's flesh, but he repaired the damage by allowing more armor to cover his form, getting closer and closer to the perfect form.
He looped his arm around his own back, charging up a hot red and white Cero from his fingertips.
"Cero again? Perhaps the reason you are keeping up with me is because you are truly becoming more like a Hollow..." Ulquiorra stated.
"I figured that out a long time ago..."
"Yet, it's still not as strong. Cero Oscuras!"
The two Ceros met against one another, and it was clear that neither one could gain much ground. They were about even in their respective strengths, though it was Ichigo who pulled out first.
The bridge they were fighting on was becoming unstable, but neither fighter stopped themselves from using their full strengths because of some bridge instability.
"Cero. A Hollow Mask. Sonido. You have ceased to use nearly all of your Shinigami powers. The closest thing I can describe you as right now is an imitation Hollow. The closest you can get to the real thing..."
"Well, gee, thanks for that. Obviously what I want is to be compared to a Hollow by you of all people. But the time I spent in Hueco Mundo taught me not to be ashamed of using this power. Even though I don't like using my strongest form, I think I'm going to show it to you regardless."
Ichigo was cut off from doing anything when a loud boom surrounded the area, shaking everything from the Earth to the sky to the core. Even the soulstream at the top of the palace seemed to warp a bit as orange reiatsu exploded from the roof of the Greater Palace, gleaming in the setting sunlight. The reiatsu was thick... very thick... that Ulquiorra had to temporarily stop and contemplate his own demise, even if he was not directly in the thick of things.
"What... was... that?" Ichigo asked. Ulquiorra looked at the boy in front of him, and could see clearly how much his skin was crawling from being exposed to it, even at this distance. He was sweating.
"He must really be having a difficult fight..." Ulquiorra commented. "Not even when he killed Aizen did he have to go this far..." "Be thankful that you have not experienced his Segunda Etapa; he is a creature you do not wish to comprehend. Death would be a preferable fate for the likes of you..."
Ichigo looked troubled.
"That's not the only thing I'm worried about..."
Ulquiorra looked up. There was the familiar aspect of Naruto's reiatsu, but sky was beginning to become torn apart. The silver-grey soulstream was still feeding into the sky at a faster and faster rate, but the sky was no longer blue, it was a reflection of another place. A reflection of...
"Karakura Town..." Ichigo whispered, seeing the reflection of his old hometown in the sky.
"The gap between dimensions is beginning to become blurred..." Ulquiorra commented. Ichigo stared at him as if he were crazy, but he was still perturbed by the appearance of his hometown in the sky, even if it was just a reflection. Or was it a reflection?
"What do you wish to do, Kurosaki Ichigo? Are you in a hurry? Will you show me your true Hollow form?"
Ichigo's mask was already beginning to change.
"Yeah. I don't know what's going on, but I have to stop it. Taking on my strongest Hollow form is the quickest and easiest way to defeat you. I must reach Naruto immediately..."
The black and red reiatsu had reached a peak within Ichigo at this point, an his mask was the first change that happened. In addition to that, the Hollow armor spread down from his kneecaps to his feet, covering his Shinigami body from head to toe in Hollow-based armor. His hair began to grow longer until it was a long orange mane, and two horns jutted out from his mask and framed his face.
At that moment, two things happened. One, Ichigo's reiatsu skyrocketed from its already high state, mixing in with the strong reiatsu that was already mingling in the air.
Second, the normally abrasive and talkative Shinigami fell silent. Not even a peep was heard from Ichigo's masked face at this point, and frankly, Ulquiorra didn't really care.
"So, that's it? Naruto told me about the strange Shinigami boy who had all the characteristics of a Hollow. You look the part, but I still don't feel the bloodlust..."
Ichigo still didn't say anything, even though it was clear he was still very much in control of himself and understood fully what Ulquiorra said. In this Hollow form... he just didn't talk much.
"The bridge is beginning to give out. I hope you realize that such a thing would only inconvenience you..." Ulquiorra said, flapping his big black wings. Ichigo didn't seem to care, pointing his sword at Ulquiorra. The wind and reiatsu was already beginning to pick up.
Ichigo let loose with a casual slice vertically, like he wasn't even trying to hit Ulquiorra.
Yet the force from the strike was strong enough to put another gash in the bridge, and if it had hit Ulquiorra, it most like would've severed a wing with just the wind alone.
"But perhaps you have the necessary skills regardless..." Ulquiorra commented, rescinding his previous statement. While he monologued, he dimly became aware of the body pressing up behind him, cold Hollow mask digging into his wings.
"What? When did he get behind me?" Ulquiorra asked himself, before he found himself staring at the wrong end of a black blade. He folded his wing, just barely avoiding the stab, before throwing one of his lances to offset the next slash.
His regenerative powers were not particularly at their strongest while he was in his first release, so he had to tread lightly. He managed to block the blade with his energy lance, but the force from Ichigo's swing was so strong that the Luz rippled and then went out. It wasn't exactly heartbreaking though, as Ulquiorra quickly summoned another two.
The problem therein lied when Ichigo used the time necessary for Ulquiorra to create another lance to charge up a Cero in the center of his horns. Ulquiorra allowed a rare look of surprise to enter his features, as he felt the sheer strength of the reiatsu being emitted.
Ulquiorra flapped his wings harder, bringing himself to a halt in mid-air. An attack like this would damage the bridge, but he didn't know if it was able to overpower him.
Then, Ichigo released the Cero, just as Ulquiorra charged up his own Cero Oscuras to deflect it. The result was the white-hot Cero of the Ichigo easily overpowering the dark Cero of Ulquiorra, resulting in a massive explosion that shook the bridge to its core.
"Cero Oscuras is no good... What is going on? His Hollow powers are off the charts. Just a normal Cero was able to completely nullify the specialized Cero Oscuras. Maybe I should..." Ulquiorra trailed off, as he saw the entrance to the Greater Soul Palace ahead.
When he looked behind him, he saw Ichigo standing on the bridge below, calmly calculating his next move He was waiting for Ulquiorra, personally. But, it wasn't Ichigo that Ulquiorra was concerned about. Two figures were covering the distance to him quickly, running around the collapsing bridge.
"Hmm, more Shinigami... I wonder if I should bait Kurosaki Ichigo... and the take the chance with some of my stronger attacks..." Ulquiorra thought. The bridge may now be unstable, but with his wings...
"Wait a second... he has not shown the ability to levitate on air in this form yet, but it would be foolish to assume he did not have the ability. But the aerial advantage should not fall to him either way..." Ulquiorra commented.
"Very well... Kurosaki Ichigo. You have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are a Hollow. Ridiculous as it may be, your power speaks for itself. Consider yourself worthy to view this form. Only those who know true despair, the Hollows, will be able to understand just what I'm about to show you..."
"Ulquiorra..." Ichigo finally muttered, his voice coming out of his mask like a guttural echo, a warped perversion of his normal voice.
A thick deep green and black reiatsu surrounded Ulquiorra like it was molasses, engulfing his form-fitting body and warping it into something even more different.
Naruto knew that Sakura was as loony a being as he was, and that she wouldn't be surprised by anything. But the way she fell into the soulstream with the look of shock on her face told him that she didn't really see this coming.
Though to be more logical, she probably didn't see it coming that soon.
The two in front of him were Royal Guards. Sakura likely figured that he valued his life more than his hatred of her, so they would band together to defeat Akane and Taiki.
"Like I'd ever get beaten by these losers..."
He had his back turned to them, but the very minute sound of movement started told him everything he needed to know. As Sakura was assimilated into the soulstream and her body disappeared, Naruto placed a hand on the hilt of his sword without hesitation.
He saw his reflection in the steel of the cutlass, and the reflection of his apparent sister in his blind spot, her own Zanpakutou, a viciously long odachi with a red hilt, drawn.
With a quick Sonido, he turned the tables on her, appearing in her blind spot in preparation for a stabbing motion. But Akane was prepared for that, and she had already altered the course of her blade in mid-Shunpo, nearly stabbing Naruto straight through the jugular on the redirection of her blade. He had blocked it with his own.
"Hrggh..." Naruto growled, the blade hovering just a few inches away from his face. Judging by the reiatsu coating that thing, his Hierro wouldn't have been able to hold up from the deadly strike.
"Enough chatter! As a threat to the livelihood of Soul Society, you will executed on the spot, Uzumaki Naruto! The machine you have activated will be shut down. I swear I will not allow you to succeed in your plan!" Akane shouted.
"Pretty talk," Naruto said, pulling their blades apart. "But why did you just stand around when I killed the Soul King? Did it really take him dying for you to finally disobey an order from him?" Naruto sneered, laughing uproariously.
"The Soul King's orders are absolute..." Akane stated, before she pressed the offensive. She unleashed a flurry of quick jabs, to which Naruto backpedaled hastily while blocking every one of them. She followed up with a wide swing to try and knock him off his feet, but the Primera responded in turn with a quick jab of his own to knock her wind-up out of sync.
Naruto grinned and turned his blade over, but a flash of light caught his eye, and he instinctively covered his face with his arms as an explosion of smoke and green reiatsu appeared right where he was standing.
"A Level-70 Hadou without even uttering a single word?" Naruto thought to himself. His Hierro absorbed most of the damage, but he glanced out of the smoke to see Taiki smirking at him, not even having drawn his own sword yet.
A flash of substance, and Naruto pulled his arm up as it was lightly scratched from wrist to elbow by a blade. A few droplets of blood leaked from the wound, but Naruto shrugged it off. The Kidou was a distraction, but Taiki's sister couldn't deal much damage in the follow-up.
"These cramped quarters are getting on my nerves..." Naruto growled, before he heard a clatter of steel. Taiki had drawn his own Zanpakutou from his sheathe, a skinny katana that was much smaller than his sister's odachi. He wasn't wasting any time, as held the sword parallel to his body.
The katana began to morph right in front of Naruto's eyes, as it took on the shape of a pitch-black club made of the darkest steel. Naruto was unimpressed; it looked like an oversized baseball bat with a flat top.
"Is that it?" Naruto asked, blocking a strike from Akane behind him.
Taiki merely smirked, getting in front of Naruto and buffeting him with the club. Naruto winced, but otherwise did not move back an inch. Some slight blood leaked from his mouth, but what was more important was what was happening to Taiki's Zanpakutou.
A small "1" had been engraved onto the side of the black metal, and it began to glow with his reiatsu.
If anyone expected Taiki to give a great monologue on how his Shikai worked, they would be let down. Instead, he swung it forward, apparently not even trying to hit Naruto.
The Arrancar was confused, until he began to see a large purple box enclose itself around him.
"Shit! Cero!" Naruto roared, launching his orange Cero as he broke his way out of the Kurohitsugi. He didn't understand; Taiki hadn't so much as uttered a word. In fact, he swung his sword, and Kidou surrounded him.
And that number that was etched into the club. What was it?
"His Shikai is making his Kidou stronger. The more hits he scores, the more effectively he is able to cast it. I'm willing to bet that thing is a conductor for it too... Maybe..."
He was cut out in his thought process when he had to block a strike from below when Akane had attacked him in close-quarters yet again. The walls behind them split apart at the seams from their swordplay, before Naruto kicked her in the stomach.
She leaped it over it, but Naruto was charging up energy into his sword.
Akane shrieked as the Cero charged Zanpakutou conducted up from her own hilt and blade and into body.
Naruto thrust out his free hand, putting it right in her face.
"Las Tres Curvas!"
Akane ducked her head as the three crescent shaped blades of reiatsu threatened to scalp her, but the Sokatsui from Taiki prevented Naruto from attacking her further.
Naruto launched his famous homing Bala, not bothering to watch as he careened toward Taiki. Meanwhile, the Sokatsui was still hurdling toward him, but Naruto's reiatsu manipulation came in handy. With a wave of his hand, the blue fire halted on its way here, and Naruto willed it to puff out on the ground before him.
The Royal Guard member Taiki had avoided his Bala Siguiendo easily, following up with a mid-to-high level Hadou spell that Naruto didn't recognize. It was like an arrow of fire, and Taiki had launched it from his Shikai as well.
"Taiki, knock it off with the Kidou for a moment. Let me take him one-on-one for a while! We need to find a weakness!" Akane roared, touching down in front of Naruto, her sealed Zanpakutou clutched tightly.
She had recovered from the nasty shock she had received earlier, now more on edge with Naruto's Cero Corazón that she knew she couldn't touch at the time being.
Naruto charged up his toxic purple Cero with his free Cero, throwing it out into the battlefield for Akane to deal with it. She avoided it easily, but she had been forced on the defensive with regards to Naruto's Cero Corazón, so the Primera could throw anything he wanted at her now.
"Akane, stop fucking around with your sealed Zanpakutou! We need to go Shikai immediately and end this as soon as possible..."
"I know! It's just... we're the Royal Guard, we haven't teamed up in order to win a fight in so long. It's kinda surreal..." Akane commented, to which Taiki grunted his agreement.
"I know! But this would be a good time to start! This guy killed the Sou-Taichou of Soul Society!"
"Sure... I suppose it is. Let's just finish this up, shall we?"
Akane twirled her odachi on her fingertip, before lifting it up and tossing it into the air, before catching it again with one hand.
"Amaze, Shinku Gafu!"
Akane's Shikai practically exploded into a burst of red reiatsu, hilt and all. Yet, Naruto wasn't fooling himself in believing that activating her Shikai would leave her weaponless, and he wasn't disappointed.
Akane herself wasn't perturbed, and not long after she released her Zanpakutou, a small red crystal materialized in the palm of her hand. After some seconds it became more numerous, as more crystals appeared and attached to each other.
"Wow..." Naruto said, similarly leading credence to her release command, but it wasn't because of any combat prowess she had shown in the last couple of minutes.
In fact, Akane was now holding a beautiful red crystalline sword that shined in the light everytime she moved. There appeared to be a small amount of liquid running within it through little cracks and canals, though Naruto didn't know what the effect of that would cause.
"Ya like? So sharp it can cut through anything! Even your sword!" Akane smirked, charging Naruto with her advanced Shunpo. Naruto took a step back, but was able to match her speed and even somewhat exceed it. What he was more surprised by was when he clanged his sealed Zanpakutou against Akane's crystal sword, watching as the metal began to get sliced by the sharper weapon. He had used up all of his Cero Corazón, which meant that the bare blade was no match for the crystal one.
"Dammit!" Naruto growled, pulling away as Akane pressed the offensive.
"Bala Rayo!" he roared, throwing a few lasers her way, which were promptly reflected back. They missed Naruto, who had used Sonido to appear behind, trying to thread a stab directly into the back of her neck.
Akane wasn't as fast as Naruto, and the Primera grinned when he realized he still had that advantage on her. She turned at the last moment, putting up her sword to block as she gained a slight scratch on the back of her neck.
With the charged Cero in his sword, Naruto attempted to see if he could bypass Akane's crystal Shikai. To his delight, Akane was once again shocked by the concentrated Cero sword, but before he could press the offensive, he felt his Hierro almost get broken by a strike to the back.
He hadn't forgotten Taiki, who had clearly shown up to aid his sister. But at that point, he had retreated away, and his black club now had the number "2" engraved all over it.
He seemed to be grasping their fighting styles at this point. Taiki, despite the large club, was the one who hung back at a distance, attacking with range and delivering blows only when necessary. His Zanpakutou was connected to Kidou in a way Naruto didn't understand, so that definitely helped.
Akane, with her crystal sword, was the close-quarters, physical fighter, which was much less difficult to figure out. But that sword of hers was difficult to deal with. He could somewhat control Yamamoto's Shikai with his reiatsu willing powers, but he didn't have such luck here.
"Jaguchi..." Akane whispered, as the little veins of liquid beneath the crystal of the sword began to leak out from small holes in the crystalline substance. With a smirk, she rushed forward. Naruto sped around her again, this time meeting her sword with his Cero Corazón.
Akane was clearly shocked by Naruto's Zanpakutou, but she didn't let the smirk drop from her face, and held fast onto the contact. The red liquid from within coated Naruto's Zanpakutou, which was just what she wanted.
When Naruto slashed at her, to which she barely managed to get away, she shouted at her brother.
There was no warm-up, no prelude. Taiki simply fired the Hadou #31: Shakkahou from his club without anything. Normally, a spell in the 30s would be nothing more than a distraction for Naruto, but the twins' plan was layered.
"Oh, that stuff on your Zanpakutou? It's basically the equivalent of spiritual gasoline..." Taiki smirked. Naruto looked at his sword in amazement, before he put it to the side. If the ball of fire hit it.
He put his sword back into his sheath, and casually sidestepped the ball of fire. As it passed, he felt the heat still concentrate within his sheathed Zanpakutou, but he didn't catch fire.
"Gotcha..." Taiki said, smirking.
The tandem attack that the twins' just performed did not stop when the ball of fire did not hit Naruto. Unbeknownst to the Primera Espada, a crawling red rope of Kidou had materialized underneath the ground beneath his very feet, and while Naruto was occupied, they wrapped around his ankles, interlocking with each other to create a web of reinforced Bakudo that continued to spread up his body, interlocking Naruto's arms and binding him.
"The fuck? Bakudo?!" Naruto hissed. "Where did it come from?"
Two Kidou at once without any sort of prelude? Taiki seemed to be responsible for this one, at least.
"Got him, Akane! You can proceed when ready!"
"Thanks, little brother! I'll take him from here!" Akane called back, scratching her crystal Shikai with her nails. "Don't bother to struggle your way out of this one. That Kidou's about as reinforced as can-"
"Rrraagghhhh!" Naruto roared, charging up his full reiatsu. The strength of it stunned the twins, but Naruto found that his movement was still very limited. In that, he was at a disadvantage.
"You little shits! You're fucking dead!" Naruto roared, thrashing about with as much effort as he could muster. The Kidou was strong; he knew that much, but with enough effort, he found he could move his arms and legs slightly.
"What the?! He's able to move like that?!" Taiki cried, on edge. Naruto was gathering orange reiatsu in his palms, twisting them together to form his strongest Cero.
"Better take cover..." Naruto mocked. "This place is gonna get a little... messier after this!"
Naruto released the Cero, creating a vortex of Cero that spread all over the room. With two quick Shunpos, the twins moved away just in time to avoid the vortex of Cero, but when they reappeared, they were standing near the edge of the room, trying to get away from the vortex.
The Cero Espiral sliced into the stone walls of the building, and a loud crash was heard as the right-hand wall was shattered and broke into large chunks as the Cero Espiral consumed it. A large hole was present in the stone now.
"Damn it! I'm still not free, and this bind isn't breaking! Maybe I should..."
He was promptly slashed in the back.
"Ughhhh!" Naruto winced as blood poured from the wound in his back. He didn't even need to see who had attacked him this time. Akane with her crystal sword had managed to get the jump on him because of his handicap.
"I need more space..." Naruto muttered, as the shadow of Akane fell over him immediately. He lifted his hand to fire a distraction Cero point-blank at her, but her reflexes allowed her to avoid it easily.
"You're not getting away!" Akane roared, as Naruto scrambled to his feet slowly and inched his way to the hole in the wall. He was incapable of using Sonido at this point, but with some effort, he managed to draw his sword.
"Taiki, come on! He's trying to do something!" Akane yelled at her brother, who hefted his club over his shoulder and followed his sister.
"Fuck you!" Naruto roared, grunted as he clanged his sword against Akane's crystal. He didn't care if the Shikai was cutting it slightly; he just needed to hold them off.
"What?" Taiki screamed. When Naruto had reached the hole, he threw himself out the window and grabbed onto the brick surface on the side of the palace with his teeth.
Roaring in exertion, he pulled himself up quickly as he could, while his siblings stared out the hole at him.
"He's trying to get to the roof. Hurry! We have to follow him!"
The secret chambers of the Soul King were approximately one-hundred feet below the very top of the building, the carved out roof of the palace. The soulstream was also likely being shot through the roof into the sky.
"Hadou #33: Sokatsui!" Akane roared, launching the blue fire at Naruto, who was quickly making his way up to the roof. With surprising nimbleness, he flipped over the fire heading straight for him, catching the ledge with his teeth as he went down. Akane glared at him, before she and Taiki used Shunpo to instantly get to the top of the roof, looking down upon Naruto.
Akane was about to use her sword to knock him off the ledge, but Naruto was prepared. He had already taken the great effort needed to point his hand up at them and launched a normal Cero at both siblings. They were forced to duck underneath the beam, which allowed Naruto to swing himself over the ledge and land upon the extraordinarily wide roof.
"Yes! Hahahaha!" Naruto guffawed, bringing himself to his feet and staring down his two siblings. "I can finally get on with it!" he said in relief. His sword was still drawn.
Like Akane thought, the soulstream was still directly behind them, shooting up into the sky. With that in mind, that wasn't the truly surprising thing.
"It's... a city," Taiki said, mouth agape. "A city in the sky!"
"Not quite..." Naruto said, looking at the image of Karakura Town high in the sky. "What you're seeing right now is a reflection of the human world within the sky that acts as a portal. However, don't let this news put you at ease, It means that the soulstream is linking the dimensions together now..."
"You monster!" Akane growled.
"Monster? Me? Let me tell you something; this entire place is repulsive. Souls passing on to this world and Shinigami? Give me a break! Considering the way that humans became Hollows almost universally back in the old days, it seems that Hollowfication is actually the true afterlife here! Your Soul Society and Shinigami garbage is disgusting and unnatural, so in a way, maybe I'm actually doing the world good..." Naruto thought outloud.
"Soul Society is finished. Try to stop the soulstream, if you can. But now, your stupid little Kidou may be able to hold me, but I'm determined to kill you in the slowest, most painful way possible..."
He held his sword out, but the two siblings look perplexed.
"What? You're wondering what I'm going to do now?" Naruto began. "Let me say, I've mellowed out a little bit over the years. I'm not as passionate as I once was. There was once a time when I would be screaming in insanity, attacking you with full force and laughing all the way. I'm not so energetic anymore... in this state," he said, grinning.
He leveled the blade, allowing it to float in mid-air and glow with orange reiatsu.
"Be warned, though. When I release my Zanpakutou..." Naruto began, hitting the hilt of his Zanpakutou and allowing it to twirl around in mid-air. Akane and Taiki's eyes widened.
"Oh, shit..." Akane cursed.
"Everything goes back to the way it once was..." he finished.
Naruto grabbed the blade from its perch with deft agility, pulling it back and holding it at his side.
And we're done here!
Translations and Other Features
Hadou #88: Hiryu Gekizoku Shinten Raihou: Way of Destruction #88: Flying Dragon-Striking Heaven-Shaking Thunder Cannon
Gero: Croak from a frog
Predador Blanco: White Predator
Rasenbashira: Spiraling Pillar
Shinku Gafu: Crimson Canvas
1st: Naruto Uzumaki
2nd: Ulquiorra Cifer
3rd: Coyote Starrk (deceased)
4th: Baraggan Louisenbairn (deceased)
5th: Tia Harribel (deceased)
6th: Nnoitra Gilga
7th: Grimmjow Jeagerjaquez
8th: Zommari Rureaux (deceased)
9th: Szayel Aporro Granz (deceased)
10th: Yammy Llargo (deceased)
Namikaze Minato: 5th Division Captain
Uzumaki Kushina: 3rd Division Captain
Jiraiya: 9th Division Captain (deceased)
Hatake Kakashi: 5th Division Vice-Captain (deceased)
Rin: 3rd Division Vice-Captain (Captain level) (deceased)
Tsunade: 4th Division Vice-Captain (Captain level)
Hyuuga Hinata: 13th Division Vice-Captain (deceased)
Nara Shikamaru: 8th Division 3rd Seat (above Vice-Captain level) (deceased)
Inuzuka Kiba: 7th Division 4th Seat (Vice-Captain level) (deceased)
Hyuuga Neji: 6th Division 3rd Seat (above Vice-Captain level)
Yamanaka Ino: 10th Division 3rd Seat (Vice-Captain level)